Follow Me

follow meJesus said, “Follow me” 20 times in the gospels.

He says it to me every day.

He has to, because I need constant reminding who is the leader and who is the follower.

Some days, I attack my to-do lists and productivity goals with gusto.  I catch a few waking moments to let Jesus know what we’re going to be doing in the coming daylight hours.  I picture Him barely keeping up with me, breathless, but proud of all my many accomplishments.

Other days, I shuffle out of sleep and dawdle through the early morning.  I approach the day with sighs and groans and no particular plan.  I picture Jesus with a bored look on His face, kicking at rocks as He plods along behind me.

Of course, I’m wrong on both counts.  Whether I’m energized or empty, His place is always out in front, never bringing up the rear.  He leads, I follow.

So why aren’t we taught how to be good followers? Type in “leadership” in a search engine and up pops hundreds of leadership courses, leadership training programs and leadership development books.  A quick search for “followership” offers a shorter list.  Interestingly enough, Harvard offers a course entitled “Followership” with sections on Hitler and Jonestown, but not one mention of Jesus Christ.  Can’t say I’m surprised, even though Jesus was the only one who came right out and said, “Follow me” and then millions did for thousands of years.  Still do.

During this season of Lent, I’m going to dig into the word “follow”.  To whom did Jesus say those words?  How did they respond?  Why did some say yes and others say no?  What does following Jesus include?  What does being a follower cost?  What does it look like to be follower?

Care to follow?

Easter Beans

jelly beansWhen I was a kid, I don’t remember hunting for a basket full of candy and toys at Easter time.  Instead, my mom hid jelly beans all over the house and I would spend most of the afternoon looking for the little gummy treats.  Maybe my parents didn’t want the sacred holiday to be overshadowed by the Easter bunny.  Or maybe sending me off to fill my own basket was a sure way to keep me occupied on a Sunday afternoon.

I was pretty good at searching out the sweets and always had plenty.  However, when my cousins came to spend a few weeks in the summer and we pulled out the hide-a-bed, inevitabley there would be a sticky bean under the cushions.  And in the fall, when I needed to look up something in the encyclopedias for school, a sneaky bean would roll off the top book shelf.  In December, when we moved the furniture around to make room for the Christmas tree, a rogue bean was usually found behind the piano.  It was like Easter kept showing up all year long, in the strangest places.

As I journey through the Bible this year, I’m finding that Easter still pops up in unlikely places.  In Exodus: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” (Exodus 6:6 )  In Leviticus: “It is the blood that makes atonement.” (Lev. 17: 11)  In Psalms: “They have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:16)  In Isaiah: “He bore the sin of many.”  (Isaiah 53:12)

Easter isn’t just a nice springtime holiday with yummy treats.

The resurrection of Jesus carries over into every day, all year long.

Like my jelly beans, the Easter story keeps springing up.

Keep up the hunt.

For Crying Out Loud

Have you ever heard of a talking rock? I’ve heard of a pet rock, rock and roll, rock of ages; one of the kids at church even told me, “You rock!” But I’ve never heard an actual rock say anything. They are usually pretty quiet.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, people became caught up in the moment. They cheered for Jesus, waved palm branches, laid a red carpet. As usual, the Pharisees were tsk-tsk-ing. The church leaders were repulsed by this jubilant show and told Jesus to rebuke his followers. Instead,  Jesus rebuked them! He said, “If the people kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

Has it ever happened? Have the people God created ever been so silent in their praise for Him that the rocks just have to step in and give a cheer? It did happen, just five days after the Palm Sunday party. Skip ahead to Friday at about 3:00 p.m. The Lamb of God took away the sins of the world, and the Lion of Judah roared from Zion, “It is finished!” Please don’t ever think of those words as a wimpy, defeated, surrendered whisper. Matthew says Jesus shouted those words – a giant, victorious yell!

It was quiet. Aside from a few weeping women and some soldiers milling about, it was deathly quiet. There was no “Hosanna!” or “Halleluia!” from the disciples. In fact, there were no disciples. There was no “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” from the crowd. The crowd had gone home. So the stones cried out. Matthew put it this way: “The earth shook and the rocks split.” The Greek word for rocks is petra, which means BIG rocks or boulders; not pebbles or skipping stones. Rocks were the only part of creation that got it! They heard the victory shout from the cross and couldn’t bear the silence, so they cried out until they split.

May the people of God never be silent! For crying out loud, we can’t be shown up by a pile of rocks when it comes to praising our Risen Savior!

Bunny Blood

Bunny Blood probably isn’t the best title, being so close to celebrating Easter and all. But that’s what this story is about.

When I was ten years old, I was sure that I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian. Living on a farm, there were plenty of cats and dogs and bunnies to care for. One spring I had 2 rabbits that quickly turned into 32 bunnies, giving me a classic farm girl lesson on reproduction. That summer I found a sickly little abandoned baby raccoon and tried with all my might to nurse it back to health. Bandit, the raccoon, would drink formula from a doll’s bottle. His little clawed feet would wrap around my fingers as he sucked away. Unfortunately, the little critter didn’t recover and there was a funeral service in the pet cemetery.

When my 4-H club offered a Veterinary Science project, I signed right up. The meetings would be held in a real vet’s office in town and I was positive this was the start of my future career. The night of the first class arrived and my mom dropped me off. I noticed most of the other kids were a lot older but I was excited! A real vet’s office! With all kinds of cute dogs and cats and bunnies! In fact, the first animal the vet brought out was a white rabbit; it looked a lot like the one in my hutch at home. The doctor was pointing out all the body parts and I was right up in front, eagerly following along.

The frantic look in the eyes of that cute bunny should have tipped me off. Or maybe I should have read the description of this class more carefully the day I signed up. A realization slowly came over me. As the vet arranged various sharp utensils on his tray, I began to sweat. The impending doom of what was about to happen made me dizzy and I backed up behind a bigger kid. All of a sudden, the bunny murderer committed his crime. As the now lifeless rabbit lay on the table and the fluffy white fur began to soak up the red blood, the room started spinning. I stumbled out.

I went outside and sat on the steps of the vet’s office and cried. While all the other kids were inside learning about the heart and lungs and digestive system of small mammals, I was crying my eyes out. I never went back to that class and I never talked about being a veterinarian again.

There’s something about seeing the blood. It makes some of us cringe, others pass out. I’ve seen a few very graphic films on the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s still the blood that makes me cry. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts, the blood of the Lamb on the cross – such a high price to pay. His life for mine. It’s a good thing that the Easter story doesn’t end with the cross and a bloody Savior. A resurrected Lord with a new, cleaned-up body is what gives me hope for my sin-stained heart.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Give It Up For Lent

Give it up for Lent – that solemn time of year when we are to join in Christ’s sufferings, maybe by giving up soda or cookies for 40 days.   However, I’m not sure that’s the kind of sacrifice that captures the real spirit of Lent.  Besides, there is likely a hidden motive there to lose a few winter pounds.  In that case, who is really benefiting from such martyrdom?  The kingdom of God or our own self image?

I prefer to think of Lent as “a time for making room for God”.  For some, that may mean giving up something in order to create some space for God in their lives, such as skipping lunch on Friday to spend some time talking with God.  For others, it could mean adding a new habit, such as reading the Good News before opening up the morning newspaper.  Whatever the choice is, Lent is meant to be a chance to deepen our relationship with God.

One year I gave up Oprah for Lent.  Instead of plopping down on the couch from 4:00 to 5:00 each afternoon, I spent that hour listening to some good music and reading some spiritually challenging books.  I never went back to Oprah.  Giving up something I enjoyed was hard at first, but since there was a replacement plan, I didn’t feel deprived.  In fact, what started as a sacrifice ended up being a joy.  How like God – to surprise me with joy.

We shouldn’t let this season pass without an intentional attempt to make a way for God to be more at home in our lives.  Maybe that will mean giving up soda or cookies, but let’s allow that craving for a Pepsi or Oreo drive us to the only One who can truly satisfy our longings.  Or let’s do something a little more unique: give up the need to be right for 40 days and discover that others have some good ideas.  Let go of the desire to hold a grudge, and by Easter see if it’s worth your energy to pick it back up.  Fast from blaming or complaining or nagging for a few weeks and see if your relationships improve.

God will not barge into our lives, but politely waits to be invited.  So let’s make some room and be hospitable for a few days.  Prepare for a pleasant surprise.

“To obey is better than sacrifice.”  1 Samuel 15:22